It’s a Brave New World for Contingent Retail Workers This Holiday Season | DCR Workforce Blog

It’s a Brave New World for Contingent Retail Workers This Holiday Season

Retail has come a very long way. The mom-and-pop stores gave way to the suburban malls where one could spend a whole day roaming the aisles. A decade ago, the malls began to feel the pinch of online shopping. Black Friday had to complete with Cyber Monday for share of wallet as people roamed the virtual malls looking for bigger and better deals.

Prognosticators who claimed that online shopping would eliminate the need for incremental retail workers during the busy holiday season were wrong. In fact, retail employment increased each year since the end of the recession, and has now returned to the record-high employment levels achieved prior to 2008. What has changed is the nature of the available retail jobs.

But the clever use of rapidly evolving technologies has gone well beyond the simple act of online shopping, and those seeking seasonal retail employment must demonstrate that they are tech savvy to land a position. Retailers are seeking holiday workers who bring skills in mobile applications and cyber security. The demand for workers with the skill sets to operate advanced technology systems is on the rise. The desire to fill short-term needs without long-term commitment is driving employers to turn to temporary workers with increased frequency. CIOs are planning to add more contractors than full-time staff over the next 12 to 18 months.

New Roles for Seasonal Contingent Workers

Companies are depending on data analysis technologies to learn all about where, when and how their customers are buying (or not buying) from them. Job seekers with skills in data processing, analytics, or big data are highly sought after by the nation’s retailers. Collection of big data helps retail stores:

  • Track the performance of their new initiatives as well as the location-based factors which can impact/disrupt the performance of a retail store.
  • Link the rise or fall in sales with local weather patterns, demographics, disruptive events, unrest or local festivities and to chart a strategy to meet future rises or slumps in business.
  • Factor in the impact of weekends and holidays to truly understand the success of any promotional campaign.
  • Solicit customer feedback or benchmark stores in one location with nearby stores to uncover any specific issues at a store.
  • Manipulate data to conduct research into the impact of various factors on business performance.

Online shopping has, unfortunately, accelerated the rise in security breaches and identity theft. Most major retailers have fallen victim to hackers, resulting is huge financial losses and loss of customer confidence. The protection of consumer information is a top priority, generating more back-office jobs in retail information technology.

The internet sparked the redefinition of the shopping experience, and mobile technology has poured gasoline on the flames. The digitally connected seller roams the shop floor with a mobile Point of Sale device, selling products from any of the retailer’s stores or website. They connect and facilitate sales with remote consumers as well as those who are in a store. Customers can check out anywhere, avoiding long lines by approaching a sales clerk armed with a mobile device. This is creating jobs for app designers, marketing experts who are adept at reaching connected consumers, logistics teams, warehouse personnel and delivery persons.

The promise of speedy delivery (1-hour, 2-hour, 8-hour or 24-hour as the case may be) by many retailers like Amazon is taking business away from regular brick and mortar sales by eliminating the instant gratification that comes from an in-store purchase. It is also creating an even bigger need for strong logistics teams as well as armies of delivery personnel, including independent delivery services.

Apart from these, individual businesses adopt their own choice of innovative technologies to assist them in their marketing efforts and in servicing their customers. Some of them could be technologies behind the scenes which enable inventory security or management. Others may reduce the human intervention in managing the logistics of the warehouse. Almost all of them have an impact on workforce deployment in the industry.

Please share your experience with such changes and their impact.

The content on this blog is for informational purposes only and cannot be construed as specific legal advice or as a substitute for competent legal advice. They reflect the opinions of DCR Workforce and may not reflect the opinions of any individual attorney. Do contact an attorney for advice specific to your issue or problem.
Lalita is a people/project manager with extensive experience in operations, HCM and training and development across industries like banking, education, business consulting, BPO and information technology. She believes in a dynamic approach to life and learning as change is the only constant.